At sea (Gulf of Alaska)

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Seattle’s skyline quickly gives way to mist-shrouded islands, towering Douglas firs and rank upon rank of snow-gilded mountains. Eagles skim low over the water, competing with humpbacks and killer whales for the area’s abundant fish.

The truly deep tangle of trees begins in British Columbia: The world’s largest coastal temperate rain forest stretches from Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland here up through Alaska’s panhandle. Glaciers sculpted this stunning wilderness; in fact, their high-water marks remain visible. The massive sheets of ice smoothed and rounded any terrain under a mile high. The peaks, sharp and craggy, slice the air at over 1,370 meters (4,495 feet) in height, give or take.

Glaciers remain a huge draw, of course, frosting mountain ranges and shearing icebergs into the ocean—watch for baby seals resting on them from May to early July! And don’t forget to survey beaches for coastal brown bears, which can grow up to three times bigger than inland grizzlies, thanks to all the available salmon.

Make sure to pack warm and waterproof gear, along with binoculars, so you can belly up to a railing and enjoy this magnificent beauty.

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